District donates ‘old’ Otisville School building plaques to Friends of the Otisville School as repurposing work to open new community center continues

school plaque handover

District officials have donated the “old” Otisville School building plaques to the Friends of the Otisville School organization, which is overseeing renovation work to repurpose the old school building into a new community center.

“We’re happy to give these important historical items to the Friends of the Otisville School and know they’ll be housed in a secure and visible area for all to see when they visit the new community center,” said Superintendent Brian Monahan. “The Otisville School will always have a historical place of prominence for both the Otisville community and the Minisink Valley School District. These plaques are among the very limited artifacts of the old school, which represent an important time in the life of the Otisville families.”

The plaques had been housed in a display case at Otisville Elementary.  The handover took place on May 23, with a gathering at school which included former students, teachers, current Otisville students and district and Friends of the Otisville School officials.

old Otisville school

The “old” Otisville School was built in 1914 and expanded in 1933. At one time, it was nicknamed the “Little M” by former students because it was one of the school district’s smallest schools for its youngest learners.

old otisville school“Generations of residents attended it, many former and current Otisville Elementary and Minisink Valley teachers worked in it,” said Ken Pinkela, a Friends of the Otisville School director. “They all continue to share their memories about what a special time and place it was.”

For several decades, the school served as one of the state’s oldest single-school buildings, housing kindergarten through 12th-grade until the 1970s. Then, it was used for varying elementary school grades until it officially closed in 2008, when the construction of the new K-5 elementary school was completed and ready for students.

At the time, the Otisville Town Board explored options of demolishing it or selling it, but residents turned out to vote in record numbers to save it. In 2017, the Friends group assumed ownership.

two guys taking plaques off a truck“We have undertaken the mammoth task of turning it into a community center,” said Mr. Pinkela. “Our vision is to create a place that includes meeting room space, a fitness studio, a library/resource center, a universal preschool, an updated ballfield, lawn space for outdoor movies and fairs, and a newly-renovated gym/stage where future generations of residents can play sports, perform music and theater, watch movies, hold alumni dinners, and spend time with their friends and neighbors.”

Like Superintendent Monahan, Mr. Pinkela stressed the renovation of the “old” school keeps the old school alive.

“We’re happy and proud  to partner with the Friends group,” said Superintendent Monahan. “The old Otisville school will always have a significant place in Minisink Valley’s history.”

Mr. Pinkela added: “Being able to place the original building plaques in a high-traffic, visible location will enable us to honor its history.”

To help make the proposed community center a reality, the Friends group has received almost half a million dollars in public and private grants and has received grants from Lowe’s, T-Mobile, Walmart, Stewart’s, Resorts World Catskills and New York State, through the efforts of former State Sen. Jen Metzger and current State Sen. James Skoufis. It also raises between $10,000 and $20,000 annual through its own fundraising efforts

people with old school's plaques

Currently, first-floor renovations are nearly complete, which includes a new HVAC system, renovated gymnasium and first-floor meeting rooms.

Next up for the group is addressing HVAC needs on the upper two floors, in addition to adding an elevator, a new main roof, and solar panels within the next five years.

“We are always seeking volunteers to help us with projects and fundraising events, so please reach out if you’re interested in knowing more,” Mr. Pinkela said.